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Off-the-grid Bungalow in Southern California

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Literally in the shadow of 230-kilovolt power lines, this 850-square-foot bungalow is completely off the grid.  15 solar panels and 16 big batteries supply all the power needed to run the house and the detached 350-square-foot woodshop.  No wires or pipes come to the property.

Living on the site in my 16-foot vintage travel trailer (once featured in the Tiny House Newsletter), I designed the buildings, supervised construction, and did some of the finish work. Being a retired guy, I named the place Sábado – Spanish for Saturday – because Saturday is the happiest day of the week, and retirement is the Saturday of life.  You work all week, and when you get to Saturday, you get to do whatever you like!

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Off-the-Grid Bungalow/Cottage in SoCal

Solar power, well water, and a septic system make Sábado self-sufficient (with a little help from a propane tank and satellite internet… )

Sixteen deep-cycle batteries keep the lights on at night. The sun shines most days here in San Diego County, but a rarely-needed generator provides backup.

Yes, that’s a wheelbarrow in the corner.  A trick I learned from the contractors, a wheelbarrow makes a great “redneck recliner.” Had to have one.  It will get painted a bright color with varnished “legs” and custom-made cushions.  It’s on the to-do list…

Primary heat comes from the wood stove, but I also have a heat-pump “mini-split,” that provides both auxiliary heat and air conditioning, and it’s very kind to my batteries. Bonus for a solar house: when it’s hot outside, the sun is usually shining…

Guest bedroom/study

Barn-door closet in the master bedroom

All of the doors in the house will get this shellac-and-gel-stain finish. The next thing on the list of things I signed up to do.

Retro bathroom


Even an attic in the rear half of the house. (That’s Molly supervising from the bedroom.)

One of my wood shop projects was the cabinetry in the kitchen and bathroom.

In keeping with the bungalow theme, I wanted the cabinets to look more like furniture than built-ins.

Sunny dining nook just off the kitchen

My little dream house had to have a dream shop, and in fact I made sure the contractors got the shop enclosed first, so I could get to work on the cabinets and my other contributions, like the tapered columns and rails on the front porch.

The contractors built me this sweet little shop, and I added the doors and cupola.

Here we are; house, shop, trailer and power lines (which are actually over 200 feet away…)

For more details on the construction of  Sábado, check out my blog at campobungalow.blogspot.com

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{ 74 comments… add one }
  • Brian
    April 8, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Wow, really nice. Beautiful wood working and cabinet making too. Well done, sir.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 5:18 am

      He rocks!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:27 pm

      Thank you Brian and Natalie!

  • Beth Grant DeRoos
    April 8, 2017, 3:45 pm

    WOW!!! That is beautiful and amazing!!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:28 pm


  • Cate
    April 8, 2017, 3:46 pm

    Absolutely stunning! You, sir, did a wonderful job and it being off grid is the icing on the cake! And Molly looks just like my Teddy 🙂

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:29 pm

      Molly’s my best girl! And yes, my favorite day of the month is the day the electric bill DOESN’T come! 🙂

  • Lara
    April 8, 2017, 4:33 pm

    Really love it !! WELL DONE! How great to have such handy skills!!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:30 pm

      Thanks Lara. I’ve been piddling around with wood for about 50 years.

      • Lara
        April 10, 2017, 6:18 pm


        How did you learn to make bread in a cast iron dutch oven?

        Your house/cottage is a shining example of how nice living more simply and modestly can be !! It is a gem!!

        Thanks for sharing all the pics and the floor plans as well !!

        • Sabado
          April 10, 2017, 7:25 pm

          Oh my gosh Lara, it’s so simple… there are several articles on the web about what they call “5-minute artisan bread.” You just mix up flour, salt, and yeast with some water and let it sit overnight, then just shape it into a ball and drop it into a pre-heated dutch oven and cook for about an hour. That’s it! And it’s so good… Here’s one of the variations:

        • Natalie C. McKee
          April 11, 2017, 7:13 am

          Yum! I love making homemade bread 🙂

        • Lara
          April 11, 2017, 10:33 pm


          Thanks for sending me the link for making bread in a dutch oven! So appreciated…it sounds yummy and relatively easy!!

          Best of luck–and enjoy your gorgeous cottage !!

  • Margaret E Lome
    April 8, 2017, 5:03 pm

    Just wonderful! It is just what I want when I can finally retire!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 5:15 am

      Yay! Glad you found inspiration!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:31 pm

      I wish the best for you Margaret. A happy retirement is one of the great joys of life.

  • Diana
    April 8, 2017, 5:07 pm

    Ok, did they build an off grid home next to EMF power lines? If so, WHY???? Beautiful build. Not a tiny home.

  • Annette
    April 8, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Hats off to you – this is gorgeous!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 5:13 am

      It really is!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:33 pm


  • Lara Concepcion
    April 8, 2017, 6:02 pm

    How many square feet is it? I love it!!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:35 pm

      Lara, the county measures from the outside of the walls, so for permit purposes, it was 888 square feet. Actual living area is closer to 850, not counting the attic, which is unfinished storage space.

  • vee rae
    April 8, 2017, 7:27 pm

    Very charming and wonderful modern touches…….how very nice!!!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 5:08 am

      I agree!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:39 pm

      Thanks Vee, when you design it yourself you get what you want – a bit of the old, a bit of the new… It’s great to be living now, when we can combine 1910 charm with a dishwasher!

  • Canyon Man
    April 8, 2017, 7:43 pm

    Very nice. This is a true home. Tiny or not, it has dignity.

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:42 pm

      Thanks Canyon Man. The nice thing about Tiny House Talk is that they celebrate “small houses” as well as “tiny houses.” Both are sensible alternatives to the McMansion and the crippling mortgage.

  • lesa
    April 9, 2017, 12:11 pm

    This is exactly what I am looking to !
    I commend your marvelous work and inspiration. I wondered
    where it was in the county; Descanso, Dulzura, maybe even Warner Springs – before reading Campo. Beautiful work and thank you for sharing.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 4:56 am

      I’m so glad you liked it 🙂

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:45 pm

      Thanks Lesa, I’m glad you liked it too. And yes, Campo – 3000 feet elevation with hundreds of oak trees. Great area.

  • kristina nadreau
    April 9, 2017, 2:38 pm

    Perfect for you. all the woodworking is spectacular. color choices also pleasant.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 4:55 am

      Yes I also enjoyed the color choices!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:51 pm

      Thanks Kristina and Natalie. The main color is called “Arts and Crafts Gold.” Because the house is small, most of the rooms are the same color, to avoid making it look choppy. The kitchen and bath share a different color called “Sonoma Chardonnay” and the ceilings are “Creamed Butter.” Sometimes you gotta choose colors just based on the cool names! 🙂

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 10:15 pm

      Oh, and the idea of the dark green exterior was to blend in with all the oak trees. There are many on this 5-acre property. The name of the color is Olive-something, but I call it Forest Service Cabin Green…!

  • Nanny M
    April 9, 2017, 6:49 pm

    One of the nicest I’ve seen. Don’t know that I would change anything.

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:54 pm

      Thanks, Nanny M. There’s only one thing I would change: painting the baseboards and door trim in a velvet (almost flat) sheen… big mistake. Huge. A real pain to keep clean. Other’n that.. I’m pretty content!

  • Sandi B
    April 10, 2017, 2:59 am

    Beautiful home and workshop. Great woodworking! The only thing I would change would be to swap the size of the kitchen and the living room.
    Beautiful hideaway. May God Bless you with many wonderful years here!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 10, 2017, 4:42 am

      That’s a great idea!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:57 pm

      You must really like to cook! I’m trying to learn. You may have noticed I don’t have a microwave. Lately I’ve been baking artisan bread in a cast iron dutch oven. Not that difficult, but definitely yummy.

      • Sandi B
        April 12, 2017, 8:32 am

        Yes, I do really like to cook/bake — it is and has always been my passion. Home baked bread is always yummie — well, unless you burn it.

    April 10, 2017, 7:09 am

    I love this guys house,…! I love it’s ability to be a stand alone structure, powered through solar power and heated and cooled with the efficiency of a mini split system … The house exterior is just beautiful, and to carry that style over to his detached shop was a cherry on top of his Saturday, ” LoL…! ” sorry I just couldn’t help my self… But really it is a beautiful build a well thought out design, and I only wish I had done something like this years ago when I had opportunity…! Bravo…!

    • Sabado
      April 10, 2017, 4:59 pm

      A cherry on top of my Saturday.. love it! Might just have to steal that from you Zachary. Thanks!

        April 10, 2017, 9:17 pm

        Hay any time…!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 11, 2017, 7:33 am

      He did a great job!

  • Sabado
    April 10, 2017, 4:43 pm

    Hah! Miss Molly might have something to say about that… 🙂

  • Sabado
    April 10, 2017, 7:11 pm

    Well Keep, I’d be interested in seeing the scientific proof you’re referring to, because I think about the only people who are still saying that living near power lines is dangerous are companies who sell “miracle” devices called GeoResonators that supposedly reverse the effect for only $89.95 (you need four).

    The EMF scare probably began with a 1979 study associating power lines with childhood leukemia, but that study and even later ones “failed to clarify whether the observed association is causal or coincidental.”

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency “There is no clear scientific evidence that electromagnetic fields affect health.”

    In 1999 the National Academy of Sciences stated that “The current body of evidence does not show that exposure to these fields presents a human health hazard… it now appears even less likely that MFs [magnetic fields] in the normal domestic or occupational environment produce important health effects, including cancer.”

    The National Institutes of Health says: “studies that have been conducted on adults show no evidence of a link between EMF exposure and adult cancers, such as leukemia, brain cancer, and breast cancer.”

    A white paper by Richard Wilson, Department of Physics at Harvard University goes into great detail in debunking the myth of power lines causing cancer.

    I could go on and on, but this Forbes article sums up the discussion pretty clearly:

    Of course there are those who believe that the NIH, the EPA and even Harvard are just parts of a vast governmental conspiracy (no doubt responsible for the disappearance of those space aliens from Roswell), and those folks probably should stay away from power lines, especially when they’re wearing their little tinfoil hats! 🙂

    So I think I’ll stay and take my chances. And by the way, Sábado is not for sale.


  • Sabado
    April 10, 2017, 7:26 pm

    … and keepyourpower, aren’t you the one who asked if I needed a roommate? 🙂

  • Patricia
    April 22, 2017, 7:59 am

    Sabado, this is an absolutely perfect small home and my husband and I love it. Except for a few tweaks, because I am disabled (like a walk-in bathtub), there is nothing we would change if this were our home—except build it out here in our beautiful Colorado. We so appreciate that it is off-the-grid but has all the modern appliances and the woodwork in the kitchen is beautiful. We especially like the screened-in porch off the Master Bedroom and Dining Room.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful labor of love with all of us.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 24, 2017, 4:30 am

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Patricia 🙂

  • AVD
    May 25, 2017, 5:43 pm

    When you are living within the power-leakage glow of those high-power lines, why invest so much money in solar panels. Just harvest the electrical aura leakage from the high-power transmission lines.

    Or, if you are really brave, do like the folks in 3rd world countries and shoot a heavy gauge conductive wire over the transmission lines and steal all of the free-juice you may want. Just don’t touch the wire.

    • Halekini
      May 25, 2017, 8:29 pm

      Probably wouldn’t be a very good idea to plug my vacuum cleaner into 500,000 volts…

  • Sarah
    May 25, 2017, 8:04 pm

    Wow, I love so many things about this house! I have been wanting to paint my townhouse yellow, wondered if it would be overpowering, but this is bright and fun. Love it! Love the arch. Love the bathroom floor. The wood. The clock. The fireplace. Your philosophy of life. When was I moving in again? LOL! Great stuff!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      May 26, 2017, 3:34 pm

      It’s always good to see a color “work” on a house. I always get nervous with colors!

  • Rusty
    May 25, 2017, 11:06 pm

    I love your home, the size is perfect, off the grid spells freedom, the nook and porch are wonderful. Blessings for many years of happy Sabados.

  • May 26, 2017, 12:26 am

    Thanks Rusty!

    May 26, 2017, 10:39 am

    The house is a beauty , but the proximity to the 25 kw wires is hell …

    • Sabado
      May 26, 2017, 11:36 am

      Thanks Platon. The power lines are actually 200 feet away, and if you read my long April 10 reply above, you’ll see that the fear of power lines has been largely debunked by the National Institutes of Health, Harvard, etc.

  • Vicki Frakes
    May 26, 2017, 11:53 pm

    Love your home. Love all your cabinets and floor plan. Great job

  • Liz
    June 16, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Why are there so many VERY cool houses and why am I not living in one of them?

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 19, 2017, 12:26 pm

      Haha 🙂 Check out our for sale section and find the perfect one 🙂

  • Paula B Brady
    June 25, 2017, 1:40 pm

    Having lived on my boat off and on since 1997 it’s time for a change. I’m in the process of looking for land in San Diego/Riverside County and building a Tiny House. Did you have many problems with permits? How deep is your well?

    • July 5, 2017, 8:40 pm

      Hi Paula,

      It took 7 months to get the permit, largely because I did the plans myself. Needed input from an architect, an environmental engineer, and a structural engineer before I was done, because the county considers Campo an extreme wind and extreme fire area. So I had to have professionals sign off that the house was structurally sound.

      My well is 400 feet deep, found water at 35o, and hung the pump at 360. I get 10 gallons per minute.

      If you can live on a boat, you’ll feel positively luxurious in a little house!


      • Wiz Zard
        November 10, 2017, 12:38 pm

        We are also in SD County, looking to build our in East County and do EXACTLY as you did! Would you be willing to share the plans so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, lol!

  • Diane
    October 19, 2017, 11:17 pm

    Beautifully done. You really did see to all of the details in this build. I wish I knew more about solar. I have a cargo truck I am working on here and have no idea how expensive it is and who to call to brainstorm the installation. I live in a big house and the cargo truck had been on the property as storage. With the development all around me it got to be impossible to get it out again so I made the best of it and turned it into a cute tiny house. Now to add power and lights just not sure what I will do.
    Diane Gray Scottsdale

    • October 20, 2017, 12:23 am

      Hi Diane,
      Is the cargo truck very far from the main house? You could have an electrician bury a wire from the house to the truck for a lot less than solar would cost. The wires going to my well and the Woodshop are just buried in plastic conduit a couple of feet underground.

    • Sandi B
      October 20, 2017, 2:20 am


      You do not say if you are planning to travel with your cargo truck, but I am assuming that you are and that you would want to utilize solar while traveling. Which is a different animal that what would be utilized in a permanent structure on a foundation. I do not know if you are familiar with a free (or it use to be) RV camp so-to-speak known as Slab City or the Slabs for short. It is an old military base torn down some time ago near the city of Niland, California in the Imperial Valley close to the border there between California and Arizona. There is a solar company located in Niland that works mainly with RV’s. The fellow is there mostly through the winter as that is when the slabs fill up with “snowbirds” for the winter. The company is called Niland, Ca Solar. Their web address is: http://www.powertownsolar.com/california/imperial-county/niland. They have a form on their site that you can fill out for information or you can call (844) 769-3721. It has been awhile since I talked with him, but I had received quite a few referrals to him at the time. He would be able to give you the ins and outs as regards solar for an RV. There are also now available smaller and more flexible, think roll up, solar panels. You cost in a solar system is in the panels and largely in the batteries. You need to be sure how much power you will use in a 24 hour period so include your appliances as well as “toys”, you know computers and such. If you deal with your solar during your build on your cargo truck it will be much less costly and more efficient than if you try to put one in after the fact. Good luck to you and let me know how it goes. If you want to be off-grid livable do not forget large water storage tanks and a composting toilet — I would recommend the Sepratist — you can google it. Have fun with your build.

  • Laura
    October 20, 2017, 5:40 am

    What a lovely house! I’m a goner for the Craftsman style and bungalows. The kitchen cabinets are perfection! Did you make them yourself? Congratulations on a job VERY well done! Enjoy every Sabado in your excellent home!

  • Marji Majewski
    October 20, 2017, 9:41 am

    Well done! I am so jealous!

  • October 20, 2017, 12:17 pm

    Just beautiful.

  • CSB
    October 23, 2017, 4:30 pm

    Beautifully crafted Craftsman! Love those cabinets! Sabado, actually means Sabbath. Which is what the seventh day is! So Happy Sabbath to you in your great little home.

  • Val
    November 10, 2017, 12:30 am


  • Wiz Zard
    November 10, 2017, 2:33 pm

    We’re looking at doing the exact same weekend retreat in east SD County! Would you consider sharing your plans so we dont have to reinvent the wheel? Thanks so much!

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